I knew when I pregnant that I would be a single mother, but I gave his father a chance. We lasted close to two years.
At the age of three, James was diagnosed with ADHD, and ODD. It was truly a challenge, even with the help I was receiving. I was on my own. Going to therapy appointments two times a week at the beginning at least. He was involved in Intermediate Head Start which was a Godsend. I am still in contact with one of the persons who was a part of his foundation there. When he started daycare, he had good and bad days. I was called 1-2 times a week to come “deal” with my child because he would have screaming tantrums. Sometimes I would have to come sit with him while the class would go for outings if he was starting to have a bad day. He was eventually kicked out of day care and I had to take FMLA.
At that time, there was little contact with his father. His father would call and make arrangements with a toddler of all people. Then I would have to be there to pick up the pieces when he didn’t show up. His father’s idea of a weekend would be picking him up Saturday evening then bringing him home early Sunday morning. His father did not believe in James diagnoses because of course, he wouldn’t “act up” when his father had him. Meanwhile James had a TSS in school for a few hours, at home and his after school program. "They" said between the ages of 10-13 he would grow out of the ADHD. James did. I had to learn how to parent differently from how I was raised but yet keep the basics of respect, how to be honest, open communication, etc.
It wasn’t easy just having one pay check. I had to quit my job because his father wasn’t paying child support. You’re asking why I had to quit my job for that? Child support paid for James' daycare at that time, which was already racking up. I was looking for other jobs for a few months that paid more but nothing was coming through. I prayed on it daily then came to the conclusion that instead of being hassled for money that I didn’t have, this was the decision I had to make. The thing is, I received this swoosh of calming and letting me know that all will work out in the end. It was the week of Christmas. I figure if I’m going to quit, I’m going to be home for Christmas with my son. What a wonderful day it was.
Total time of not working, close to nine months. I was looking for work from January to May, nothing came. I was living off of my retirement, paying my mortgage, bills, etc.. I decided that I was going to be home to enjoy the summer with James, so I prayed on it and the Lord provided. I began to receive child support, so we had a wonderful summer, still going to therapy through that time as well. I was able to get James school clothes and actually start getting me work clothes to get ready for job searching. His father did visit more during that summer.
When James went back to school, I was able to get on welfare, get him on the Child Care Partnership program and join the Welfare to Work Program. During that time, I wasn’t able to pay just two months of my mortgage and the mortgage company didn’t want to work with me. I had just started a new job at that time. I told them they can take the house and we moved into a one bedroom apartment. Even through all these changes, I was still dealing with some of James' behavior issues, the ODD specifically.
I cannot tell you how many times I had to re-invent myself. Working temp jobs to make ends meet because jobs weren’t coming in for me. Stress can take its toll on your body and it did mine. My body just said, I’m going to just have to make you sit and take care of me whether you’re ready or not. James became a latch key kid at this time and by the end of school became a truant student. James started being truant in 8th grade. He started hanging out with other kids and the downward spiral began when he no longer needed daycare/after school care services.
The stress was real managing a truant teen, especially when having to leave my job and dealing with his teachers. The time came when the magistrate had to get involved and I was being fined. This appointment was highly frustrating. We were there early and registered but his staff didn’t do what they needed and therefore we were considered a no show and had to be rescheduled. The next hearing with the judge, he was talking to us as though we weren’t there and I corrected him and asked him to check his sign in sheets because we were there and early. The outcome was a fine. Luckily for me, I was still getting child support so that paid for the fine and I told James there is your money for the month.
The follow up hearing, his father came. I was threatened with jail time if it happened again. I said so let’s get this straight. I go to jail over nothing I did because my son gets picked up by his truancy officer and leaves school on his own. He’s still a truancy and won’t go to school and him and his friends can skip school and be in my apartment while I’m in jail but that’s OK? I said then I will have no choice but to kick him out when I get out of jail then because then I will have no job and have to move back home to my dad. The judge said I can’t because he’s still a minor.
I nearly lost it.
He couldn’t go stay with his dad because he had no room.
I eventually signed him out of school. I figured if he’s not going, I’m not going to go to jail for my son. Then months later he wanted to go back to school and we went back to see how that could be done, he would have to start at 8th grade. He declined.
Fast forward to today. His light bulb is finally going off, he was a lost child for many years. My son is 25. We now have a good relationship with his father, that had to be worked on. He still was a truant issue and didn’t finish high school. He is realizing his failures because it was hard for him to get a job. Even did a little jail time. But God never give up on us and always listen to our prayers. My son who never believes, have a special relationship with our Lord and Savior. He recently graduated from the Community Kitchen In Hazelwood and will be doing an internship with Grow Pittsburgh in June, he wants to be a Botanist.
Me, I’m still having health issues. My body decided to turn into an arthritic one. So James has been making sure I take care of me. He encouraged me to eat better, we became Pescatarians (we only eat vegetables, fruit, grains, fish) last year and slowly getting into becoming vegans. Whenever I have to have knee surgery, he’s right there helping me “hop” along and making meals for me. He got me to start meditation and yoga off/on which now I cannot get on the floor to do, so I found Yoga in Bed which I just started.
He has come to terms with the challenges of his childhood and my many sacrifices and sometimes struggles with guilt because of it. But I tell him often.: When you’re a parent, you put your children first and you do what you have to do for them. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. I just prayed over my circumstances and prayed over him and kept going forward. I made plenty of mistakes and that’s where much of my growth came from.
We believe it takes a village...here is Elley's village advice: You have to remain strong in your journey and keep positive people around you. You have to realize that you are stronger than your circumstances, you come from strong stock. You are a survivor because you have survived worse. You deserve to be happy and have joy but we determine the meaning of that not other people. Stay in the blessing, it’s not over until it’s over.
My name is Elley Dreher and I’m a single mom of a wonderful child who I help shape and grow into this wonderful man with God’s blessing. We went through our ups and downs together. When he was a child he called me his best friend. Told him thanks but for now, I’m your mom, you can call me that after your 18. I wouldn’t change a thing with our testing and growing, it builds your character and will show you what you’re truly made of in the end.